...[a] brutal, brilliant debut ... Tallent is an amazing writer. His prose is expansive and ornate, wild and bold. Much of it is spent describing the beautiful, dense, dangerous landscape and seascape that both imperil and shelter Turtle. Nature is as powerful a force as it is in a Jack London novel — mighty, beautiful and indifferent to human fortunes. Reading this book is like watching an electrical storm, both beautiful and dangerous. Works of fiction about child abuse, such as this book, Emma Donoghue’s Room, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life and several works by Joyce Carol Oates, can be excruciatingly hard on a reader, even when they are admirable as literature. A story about that subject had better have something more to offer than hypnotic horror. My Absolute Darling is worth it, with fragile tendrils of beauty and hope tenaciously emerging here and there in the gothic web the story weaves. There’s a faint sense that Turtle will survive, despite profound damage. Her story is mesmerizing, though occasionally unbearable. May the aptly named Tallent tell us many more.
My Absolute Darling is a shocking and unsettling novel about child abuse — it can be difficult to read, but it's an excellent debut from the Utah-based author ... My Absolute Darling is, very obviously, difficult to read, particularly the scenes that detail Martin's abuse. But it's also nearly impossible to put down ... In Turtle, Tallent has created a memorable and original character. She's easy to feel sorry for, but impossible to pity — she's tough, but capable of tenderness when she lets her guard down. Tallent does a masterful job explaining why some abuse victims stay with the people who hurt them, especially when they've never known a life without abuse ... There's no shortage of things to admire in My Absolute Darling — it's a devastating and powerful debut from a writer who's almost certain to have a wonderful career ahead of him.
Along with its horrors, My Absolute Darling is also a book of nostalgic pleasures. Turtle is a staunchly American type, perhaps the American type — tough, taciturn and almost pathologically self-sufficient ... This is a book profoundly about other books, fed by the classics like tributaries. Nabokov’s ghost presides — as it always does, over stories of innocence defiled — not just in Martin’s arias of self-pity or desire, which recall Humbert Humbert, but in the vocabulary, in the satisfaction of naming the world with scientific precision ... For all its pedigree, however, My Absolute Darling isn’t especially self-reflective. It’s really just a sequence of tightly choreographed action scenes ... Tallent is a confident enough writer to leave plot strands loose, but he leaves too much psychological terrain unmapped...What we’re left with is an action hero, a kind of male fantasy figure out of Mad Max: Fury Road. And it’s a fantasy of a wearying sort, because Turtle has clearly been designed to be 'empowering' ... Tallent is so fearless when evoking what the body can withstand, so scrupulous at capturing the visible world; what a writer he’ll be when he turns to charting internal, invisible cartographies as well.